Spinal fractures may lead to widespread chronic body pain


Fractures of the spine and hip, among other bones, may lead to an increased risk of widespread chronic body pain later on in life, according to a new study published in Archives of Osteoporosis.

A team from the Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit (MRC LEU), University of Southampton, UK, found that men and women who had experienced a spine fracture—as well as women who had had a hip fracture—had twice the likelihood of experiencing chronic widespread pain as those who had not had a fracture.

Lead researcher, Nicholas Harvey, professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology, says, “The causes of chronic widespread pain are poorly characterised, and this study is the first to demonstrate an association with past fracture. If confirmed in further studies, these findings might help us to reduce the burden of chronic pain following such fractures.”

The study used the UK Biobank cohort of 500,000 adults aged between 40 and 69 years old, to investigate associations between a past history of fracture affecting upper and lower limb, spine or hip and the presence of chronic widespread body pain. The researchers considered possible effects of a wide range of further factors, including participant diet, lifestyle and body build, and, importantly, measures of psychological health.

Researchers found that the risk of chronic widespread body pain was increased if participants reported having a past fracture, especially spine and hip fractures.

Harvey adds, “Chronic widespread pain is common, and leads to substantial health related problems and disability. Past studies have demonstrated an increased risk of chronic widespread pain following traumatic events, but none have directly linked to skeletal fractures.”

Cyrus Cooper, director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, adds, “This study illustrates the importance…in…large, multi-centre analyses on this internationally leading UK Biobank dataset. The findings will be built upon in further analyses that capitalise on the genetic and intensive musculoskeletal phenotyping components of the study in which we continue to play an important role.”